First Look: To See or Not To See?

I'm witty. See that title there? Yeah you do. I'm not sure how it happened, but somehow I found myself listening to an IHeartRadio station about weddings. I love weddings and all, but listening to a radio show about them is a bit much even for me. The thing that kept me listening, though, was that Jasmine Star, a popular wedding photographer, was being interviewed, and the host asked her about the bride and groom seeing each other before the wedding.

What she had to say had me nodding my head like the eclectic, hat-wearing lady in church. You know the one. Mmmmhmmm.

"It really does help the flow of the day. We have these old wives' tales of 'Oh no, you can't see the groom,' and then it begs the question, 'Why?' Who created this rule, and why is it being upheld?"

I could interject here and tell you that this tradition comes from when arranged marriages were custom, and the family was afraid the groom would think the bride was too ugly to marry her, but I won't go there.

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Jasmine went on to talk about her First Look on her own wedding day.

"It revolutionized the way I saw the wedding day. Because seeing each other the first time and having just 20-30 minutes alone made the day about the marriage, not the wedding, and I think that's a huge change in your perspective. From a business perspective — a photographer's perspective — it allows for so much flexibility, yes for inclement weather, for nice, candid, natural photos with your friends, with your family, really embracing the day."

So here's the reasoning behind why I chose a First Look as a bride, and why I recommend it as a wedding photographer.

1. It makes your day about you.

I can't emphasize this enough. I feel like so many couples were raised knowing this is the tradition and love the idea of the groom not seeing his bride until she's walking down the aisle, and I agree, it's a nice thought. In reality, I don't feel like you get the truest reaction from your groom, and the bride doesn't get to show her truest reaction, either. Spending time with each other before the wedding reminds you why you're marrying this person. Why you're committing your life to him/her. Why you've brought all these people here. It allows you to be surrounded by your family and friends all day, rather than being separated before the wedding and pulled away for photos afterward. In short, it makes your day about you together.

2. It allows more time for photos.

This was important to me as a bride and of course is important to me as a photographer. Now, I'm not saying I want your wedding to be scheduled around what's easier for me, and I doubt many other photographers would say that either. I say that because, as your photographer, I want to deliver the best photos you could possibly have, which requires more time, and that works best before the wedding.

3. It doesn't take away from walking down the aisle.

Every couple I've talked to who opted for a First Look say it doesn't at all take away from the moment of walking down the aisle, and I agree with that from my experience as well. Even Jonathan had a tear in his eye as I approached him during our ceremony, and that's really saying something. In all reality, nothing can take away from that final moment that you're walking toward each other, committing to each other forever, not even a First Look.

4. It allows more time for your family.

I once attended a wedding where the bride and groom didn't show up to their reception until three hours after the wedding ended. I've never had anything close to that happen in weddings I've photographed, and I do try to hurry to get you to your reception as soon as possible, but it's such a nice feeling to know that as you walk down that aisle, you're finished with formal wedding photos, save maybe a couple here or there. You can go right to the arms of your loved ones waiting for you and spend your evening with them.

5. We do it right.

I'm a bit picky about how First Looks work. I make sure no one else is anywhere around unless you specifically say it's OK, I put on a zoom lens, and I catch those first initial reactions. Then, I leave. I leave you two, alone, to reflect, to enjoy each other, to pray together, to do whatever you want to do, and we meet up a few minutes later. It's such a special moment, and I think everyone deserves to experience it.

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My friend Jessica (who now owns Creative Cakery and makes beautiful wedding cakes, by the way) was the first person I knew to break the mold, so to speak, and see her groom before the wedding. At first, I thought that was kind of lame, but as soon as I understood how well everything fell together, I was sold. Knowing Jonathan isn't the most publicly expressive person — he is an introvert, after all — I wanted to see what his real reaction would be when we saw each other, to be able to hug him, to tell him I love him. All things you can't do in the middle of a ceremony. If I were to get married 100 times (all to the same amazing man, of course), I'd do a First Look every time.

But I'm always open to the other side of things. Did you have or do you plan to have a First Look or not? Let me know why or why not, and if you recommend it!

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